My least favorite thing in the world is when an interesting concept is done poorly, and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians was one of those books.
The premise itself sounds great: kid is obsessed with a collection of fantasy books about a magical land. He grows up and finds out magic is real after being invited to a school to learn the skill, but this magic land (Fillory) is still considered a fantasy. Until one day…it’s not. He and his friends actually get there.
Unfortunately, the story goes wrong right from the beginning. Quentin Coldwater, the main character and third-person narrator, ruins it. The first line of the description on the back states that he is “brilliant but miserable,” but he’s also a dick. He objectifies every woman he sees. He plays the victim even when he’s in the wrong, and he thinks he’s above everyone else. As the main character, he’s annoying, but since the book is told from his perspective we get every gross or self-righteous thought that flows through his head.
The other problem with the book is its timeline. It opens with him finishing high school and preparing for college. In 400 pages, it spans somewhere between seven and eight years. To do so, it glosses over those years to get as much time into the story as possible. Random story elements will pop up, go unmentioned for hundreds of pages, and then come back when you’ve already forgotten about them. Other story elements are never relevant and put in solely for shock value: when Quentin and Alice have fox sex, for instance. The whole thing feels disjointed and vague.
I only kept reading it because someone I love very much bought it for me because she wanted me to watch the TV show. I imagine, in that format, it’s much better. You can’t be vague on-screen, and it is more third-person omniscient than third-person limited so I won’t have to deal with Quentin’s internal dialogue. Because of that, I’ll probably try an episode or two. But I wouldn’t recommend the book.